If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer, you are likely dealing with a lot of stress, emotions, and administrative overwhelm. One of the issues that typically comes up during this trying time is estate planning. As a Tampa estate lawyer, I always say that it’s far better to put your estate plan in place long before you need it, but the reality is that a lot of people don’t think about it (or choose NOT to) until they are facing a medical crisis such as a cancer diagnosis.
The good news is that the process is not as hard or overwhelming as you may think, and your estate planning lawyer can help you get an effective plan in place that will protect you and the legacy you’ve spent your life building. To do this, you should focus on four primary areas:
- Select someone (or multiple people) to speak for you regarding financial and medical matters.
- Create or review your plan to leave your assets to the people you choose.
- Create a roadmap of your financial affairs.
- Have a plan to pay for long-term care.
If you become incapacitated, your family members may need to assist with a variety of healthcare issues that you would normally handle yourself such as communicating with doctors, accessing medical records, and making life or death decisions. However, to speak for you legally, a loved one will need to be appointed as your Healthcare Agent in order to have authority over your medical care and decisions.
There may also come a time when you need someone else to help to oversee financial matters such as bill paying, banking, pension issues, tax issues, real estate matters, government benefits, and insurance issues. In order to do this, your loved ones will need an additional document called a Power of Attorney to legally make financial decisions and act on your behalf if you are unable.
Next, if you have an estate plan in place, you should now begin to review your documents to ensure they still reflect your wishes. If you do not have a will or trust, take the time now to create them. If you don’t, the state’s rules and regulations will take precedence over your wishes if you pass away. In essence, you will be allowing the government to speak for you and decide where your hard-earned money and assets go. Wouldn’t it be much better if you made those decisions yourself?
Our Tampa estate lawyers have helped many clients that are facing a cancer diagnosis put plans in place that allow them to forget about legal and financial issues so they can instead focus on their family and health. In our next blog post, we’ll walk through the remaining critical areas of focus: creating a long-term care plan and mapping out your financial affairs. If you need assistance in the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact us to schedule a consultation.